Firework displays, backyard barbecues, and family-friendly entertainment – the Fourth of July is one of America's most festive holidays, and this year, the nation's major events are back in full swing with in-person celebrations.

From big-city bashes to wild-west rodeos, here are the best places to salute the red, white and blue in 2022.  

New York City skyline (with the Empire State Building) at night with fireworks in the sky on the Fourth of July.
Celebrate the Fourth of July in NYC © Alex Llobet / Shutterstock

New York City, New York

The home of Lady Liberty goes all out for America's birthday with events scattered around NYC's five boroughs. In Brooklyn, the nation's bravest bellies gather at Coney Island for Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog-Eating Contest, followed by a Cyclones baseball game and an evening fireworks show. In Staten Island, the tiny town of Travis dons stars and stripes for a historic parade dating back to 1911.

But nothing holds a candle to Macy's Fourth of July Spectacular — one of the country's biggest pyrotechnic performances. The event begins around 9:30 pm, with over 65,000 shells launching from five barges on the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge. Head to Brooklyn Bridge Park or reserve a spot at riverside joints like Watermark or Fornino for unblocked views.

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Huntington Beach, California

When the surf capital of SoCal threw its first Fourth of July fête in 1904, there were roughly 50,000 attendees. Now, 500,000 people flock to this sunny Los Angeles suburb to participate in what's become the largest Independence Day shindig west of the Mississippi

Visitors can partake in four days of events, including an all-American 5K, a float-filled parade along historic Main Street, and the Pier Plaza Festival, featuring live entertainment, amusement rides, and tasty grub. The carnival climaxes on July 4th, when fireworks light up the night sky over Huntington Beach Pier at 9 pm. 

Horse drawn carriage tours in British Colony in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA.
Head to Colonial Williamsburg to celebrate the holiday © jiawangkun / Shutterstock

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

July 4th is a celebration of American history, and no place brings that history to life quite like Colonial Williamsburg — an authentic 18th-century town where re-enactors transport visitors back to the nation's earliest days. Start your morning listening to Thomas Jefferson read the Declaration of Independence from the Capitol building's West Balcony, then take the Freedom's Paradox tour to investigate the contradiction of American liberation and slavery. 

At 8 pm, join the crowds at Palace Green for Lights of Freedom. The concert features American marching music, a patriotic sing-a-long, and selections from George Frideric Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks — a pitch-perfect accompaniment when actual fireworks go off at 9:30 pm. Palace Green and Market Square are the best spots to see the kaleidoscopic spectacle. 

Woman carrying American flag on horseback at rodeo
Jackson Hole serves up Americana like nowhere else © Mark Read / Lonely Planet

Jackson Hole, Wyoming 

Scenic Jackson Hole serves up Wild West Americana ideal for July 4th celebrations. The annual jamboree starts with a community pancake breakfast hosted in Town Square. A parade packed with horses, clowns, and all the trappings of a John Wayne blockbuster takes off afterward, followed by a shootout reenactment worthy of Billy the Kid's praise. 

If you're crazed for more cowboy culture, cap the evening with an old-school rodeo at the Teton County Fairgrounds. While evening fireworks at Teton Village and Snow King Mountain are stunning, nothing beats the sun setting behind the Grand Tetons' white-capped peaks. It's arguably the nation's most magnificent light show. 

Seward, Alaska 

Seward's fireworks don't erupt until 12:01 am because of Alaska's midnight sun, and the late-night display is almost an afterthought. In this tiny port town, the main event is the Mount Marathon Race, founded in 1915. 

Every year, Seward's population balloons from 3,000 to 30,000 as spectators gather to gawk at the race, dubbed the world's most challenging 5K. Join the crowd as madcap adventurers ascend and descend a 3,022-foot peak above Resurrection Bay in the hopes of becoming the marathon's winner. The trek — which scrambles over thick roots, loose shale, and muddy waterfalls — isn't for the faint of heart, but those who compete earn a lifetime of bragging rights. 

Fourth of July firework display in Philadelphia shot from Fairmount Park.
2012 July 4th firework display in Philadelphia shot from Fairmount Park © Tongshan/ Getty Images / iStockphoto

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The City of Brotherly Love is where America's forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence; you better believe locals take the Fourth of July 4th seriously. The events begin on June 19th, when the Wawa Welcome America festival presents the Juneteenth Block Party, connecting the thread between American liberation and African American emancipation. A series of free museum days, outdoor films, and live performances follow, leading to a holiday weekend brimming with national pride. 

If patriotic songs and orchestral tunes suit your style, register for a free ticket to Independence Mall on July 3rd to see the Philly POPS Orchestra. On July 4th, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway becomes an all-day pedestrian party with everything from entertainment and food trucks to games and a kids zone. At 7 pm, the Parkway turns into an outdoor concert featuring pop icons Jason Derulo and Ava Max. Fireworks over the Philadelphia Museum of Art button the day's festivities at 9:45 pm. 

Aptos, California

If you're looking for a kitschy way to celebrate small-town America, look no further than Aptos — a sleepy hamlet on the Monterey Bay known for hosting the world's shortest parade

The route might be a mere 0.6 miles, but don't let the size fool you — this unassuming town has major stamina. Thousands of spectators visit every year, and the march lasts for a couple of hours. The festivities kick off on Soquel Drive and State Park Drive at 10 am. After the parade, make your way to Aptos Village Park, where locals lounge around ten grassy acres and celebrate all afternoon. 

Cowboy boots on sale in downtown Nashville.
Celebrate the holiday with cowboy boots in Nashville © Pez Photography / Alamy

Nashville, Tennessee

Music City, USA, lives up to its nickname with an action-packed holiday featuring performances by world-class musicians. Start the weekend on July 1st by seeing singer-songwriter Ben Folds groove with the Nashville Symphony, rock out on July 2nd with Chagall Guevera at the Ryman Auditorium, and feel your country roots when Riley Green takes over the Ascend Amphitheater on July 3rd. Kids can enjoy the free Family Fun Zone at Music City Walk of Fame Park on July 3rd and 4th, which boasts games, inflatables, and live music. 

Let Freedom Sing! Music City is the July 4th grand finale. The free Downtown Nashville bash will feature reggae star Gramps Morgan, pop-punk princess Cassadee Pope, and country heartthrob Levi Hummon. Once the concert ends, head to Ascend Amphitheater for show-stopping fireworks. The city synchronizes its pyrotechnics to a live performance by the Nashville Symphony. 

Addison, Texas 

3500 pounds of fireworks. 500,000 spectators. Everything really is bigger in Texas — particularly in this suburb north of Dallas. On July 3rd, Addison hosts Kaboom Town! — a half-hour pyro-palooza that sets the sky ablaze. 

A limited number of free tickets go on sale on June 22nd at 10 am, but don't worry if you miss out. Restaurants and hotels host watch parties for out-of-towners, and the rocket's red glare is visible from almost anywhere. If you attend, be sure to stretch your neck and shoulders beforehand. A patriotic "Freedom Flyover" airshow precedes the main event, meaning you'll be craning your neck sky-high for most of the night. 

Fourth of July Fireworks 2012 in Boston over the Charles River with kayaks and boats in the water.
See the fireworks over Boston this year © JesseJamesPhotography / Getty Images

Boston, Massachusetts

Walk Boston's cobblestone streets and you can't help running into Revolutionary War-era relics like Bunker Hill and the resting place of Paul Revere. This means Beantown gets a lot of Fourth of July hype — and the city lives up to expectations. 

The events begin on July 1st at Downtown Crossing (DTX), where visitors can peruse an Arts and Crafts market, meet re-enactors and staff from the USS Constitution (the world's oldest floating ship), and enjoy music from the 215th Army Band. The DTX party continues on July 2nd with free performances leading to the Harborfest fireworks at 9 pm. 

On July 4th, follow a brief parade from City Hall Plaza to the Old State House (built in 1713), where there's a reading of the Declaration of Independence. The day ends with the Boston Pops' annual Fourth of July Spectacular, which returns to the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade for the first time in three years. Stick around for the rousing rendition of the 1812 Overture as cannons and fireworks light up the city. 

Fire Island Pines, New York 

Independence Day on Fire Island is a drag. Every summer, queens and kings of all kinds catch a ferry from Cherry Grove to the Pines, two LGBTQ+ havens off the coast of Long Island. The event, dubbed the Invasion of the Pines, commemorates the summer of 1976, when a Pines restaurant refused to serve a Cherry Grove drag queen because of their outfit. On July 4th, a group of queens 'invaded' the Pines in protest, only to be met with free drinks and admiration. 

Today, hundreds of flamboyantly-dressed revelers make the same journey. Once they arrive at the Pines Marina, they strut down a red carpet and into the open arms of friendly onlookers. When the runway ends, the party continues at bars lining Harbor Walk. The event might not celebrate Independence Day, but it certainly celebrates American liberation. 

This article was first published July 2019 and updated June 2022

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